£852m: The economic impact of tourism on Northumberland

Tourism, ramblers, walking, walkers, holidaymakers
Tourism, ramblers, walking, walkers, holidaymakers

New figures reveal that almost 10million people visited Northumberland in 2016, pumping £852million into the county’s economy.

On Tuesday, Northumberland Tourism publicised statistics from STEAM – The Economic Impact Report, which analyses the impact of tourism.

Not a bad view overlooking Bamburgh beach and castle
Picture by Jane Coltman

Not a bad view overlooking Bamburgh beach and castle Picture by Jane Coltman

And the figures for last year make happy reading, with visitor numbers, money spent in the county and the number of jobs in the industry all on the increase, compared to 2015.

The rise has been attributed to a range of factors, including the county’s ever-growing profile on both television and film, while last year’s North Sea Tall Ships Regatta, in Blyth, was a particular crowd-puller.

The STEAM figures show that 9.7million people visited the county in 2016, a rise of two per cent on 2015.

The number of overnight visitors was 1.72million – up four per cent – while the number of day visitors was up two per cent, at eight million.

The economic impact of tourism in the county was £852million, up three per cent. The average spend per trip by overnight visitors was £233.96, while the average spend per day visitor was £28.70.

The statistics show that, in 2016, there were 11,785 jobs directly related to tourism – up two per cent.

Jude Leitch, director for Northumberland Tourism, welcomed the figures. She said: “We are really happy with the results and it shows that we are experiencing nice, steady growth, but not anything that we can’t handle.”

Jude believes that Northumberland can continue to build on this – especially as it is promoting a year-round offering by highlighting the county’s stunning dark skies in the winter – and says more people are putting their trust in the tourism sector.

She said: “One of the indicators to show how well things are going is private investment in tourism across the county.

“There have been so many planning applications for holiday accommodation, including investment in camping, glamping and boutique hotels.

“The amount of investment that I have seen in the county recently is more than I have ever seen in all the time that I have been involved in tourism.”

The STEAM figures have also been welcomed by Jeff Sutheran, chairman of the North Northumberland Tourism Association, and Bruce Hewison, chairman of Alnwick Tourism Association.

But both agree that the complex issue of infrastructure in tourism hotspots, especially parking, needs to be right.

Jeff, who runs the award-winning St Cuthbert’s House Bed and Breakfast, in North Sunderland, said: “The figures are good news and I echo what Jude said. We are moving in the right direction and I am particularly pleased that the growth has been relatively modest, but very steady, which shows that we are building sustainably.

“I think we need to embrace tourism, as it is a growing industry in Northumberland, but it is important that we also get the infrastructure right.”

Bruce, who runs West Acre House, in Alnwick, added: “The figures bode well and show how important tourism is for jobs and the economy. But we need to improve the infrastructure in the town.”